At it’s core, David Yarovesky’s The Hive is a story about newfound love and the power of emotional connection. It’s also the story of a semi-sentient virus hell-bent on infecting all of humanity, linking their minds and memories to create a perfect, singular organism. Yarovesky weaves these threads together to create a timely cautionary tale that, though imperfect, is impressive in terms of scope.
The story opens with the main character Adam (Gabriel Basso) waking up with no memory of his identity or whereabouts. He’s trapped in a room with all of the doors and windows barricaded, with a few brief messages scrawled on the walls. “Remember” dominates the far wall, with sketches of an unknown girl underneath. Memories begin to trickle back into his mind, but not all of them are his. As Adam works through this network of memories, the grim reality of his situation becomes clear to himself and his audience. He’s at ground zero for a viral outbreak that is turning human beings into easily controlled husks.
The husks appear to be zombie-like at first, but these creatures have more in common with the Deadites from Evil Dead than the Walkers. Adam remembers a time before the outbreak, when he worked as a camp counselor with his best friend Clark (Jacob Zachar) and had just met Katie (Kathryn Prescott), the girl of his dreams. The film takes a few minutes to build their on their budding romance before the virus comes into play. It’s not long before most of the camp is infected, puking black bile into each other’s mouths as a way to spread the virus.
It’s disgusting to watch and the director relishes this, showing scene after scene of the characters choking and puking out what looks like thick tar. The film shows just enough restraint to keep it from feeling overdone, but it is gleefully skirting that line. The ooze represents the physical invasion of the body, the virus given a visible form. It makes for effective imagery and is far more nauseating than a simple zombie bite, trading that primal fear of being attacked for a more nuanced fear of losing oneself to an outside force.
The Hive drives this point home, showcasing longtime friends losing control and trying to infect each other. The idea that a virus can simply erase your conscious thoughts and feelings, forcing you to commit atrocious acts, is one that hits hard. It’s a deep fear that few people will think of on a daily basis, but it’s sure to resonate once the idea has been planted.
As I said, this film is a love story at its core, but that’s the weakest part of the plot. The actors turn in great performances, particularly Basso, but the non-linear nature of the story combined with the fast pace makes the romance between Adam and Katie hard to believe. It portrays Adam’s love for Katie as something more than lust, something powerful enough to transcend their horrific circumstances, but the characters know each other for a few days at most. It serves as a strong metaphor to deliver a message about the importance of real human connection, but as a plot point it falls flat.
Though the love story at its core is disappointing, the horror and science fiction elements of the film shine. The special effects used to denote the infected are simple, but incredibly effective and the ever-present black bile is enough to make your stomach churn. Most impressive is the nonlinear plot structure. It never comes across as a gimmick or a knockoff version of Memento. Instead, it feels like a smart choice by the director for this particular story. The audience figures out the story at the same rate that the main character does, allowing for striking revelations and impactful reactions.
The Hive will be digitally distributed by The Nerdist this fall.